Kevon Looney is a free agent for the second year in a row, and this time he has a pretty good reputation. After a stellar season for the Golden State Warriors - one in which he was far and away the team’s best center in the postseason - Looney is hitting the market as a 23-year old who already has four deep playoff runs under his belt.
Naturally, he has his fair share of suitors.
NBA free agency kicks off on Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. PT. And the fifth-year center already has at least three meetings set up: With the Warriors, the Houston Rockets, and the Chicago Bulls.
Kevon Looney also has a scheduled dialogue with the Warriors scheduled tomorrow, per source. https://t.co/OQPY1LaCNh— Logan Murdock (@loganmmurdock) June 29, 2019
Kevon Looney also plans to speak with the Chicago Bulls tomorrow when free agency begins— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) June 30, 2019
All three of these teams make sense. Obviously the Warriors are a good match, but Looney would be a tremendous fit with the Rockets, especially if they end up trading center Clint Capela. Looney’s monstrous screens and finishing ability at the rim would play brilliantly alongside the iso-heavy, high-screen action of James Harden and Chris Paul. And his defense would fit perfectly with Houston’s switch-everything scheme. Perhaps most importantly for Houston, signing Looney would mean Harden would never have to try and score on him in the playoffs.
Chicago’s interest is clear, as well. The Bulls are trying to build a young core, and Looney would give them a frontcourt to build around when paired with Wendell Carter Jr.
The big question is how much money will Looney command, and how much are the Warriors willing to pay? Golden State has Looney’s full Bird rights, meaning they can pay him any amount. That said, the luxury tax payments will be enormous, especially if the team is able to re-sign Kevin Durant.
However, coach Steve Kerr labeled Looney a “foundational piece” during the playoffs, and the team’s best players constantly referred to the young center’s importance. He’s not a star on the level of Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, or Draymond Green, but he’s established himself as part of the team’s core. It seems likely that the Warriors will be willing to shell out a good chunk of change to keep him around.
Looney may not get a big contract, however. A year ago - when the Warriors didn’t have his Bird rights, and risked losing him - Looney entered free agency, seemingly with the potential for a decent payday. He ended up returning to the Warriors on a modest one-year, $1.5 million contract - virtually the minimum.
He’ll certainly get more this year, but how much more remains to be seen. Looney’s outstanding defense means he deserves a big contract, but teams still shell out for counting stats and little else. Despite his value, he averaged just 6.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last year, and teams are often hesitant to spend big bucks on those types of players, no matter how good their defense and advanced metrics.
Chances are, more teams will meet with Looney, and that could eventually drive up his price. For now, all we can do is wait to see where he ends up.